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Advanced Directives

An advance directive tells your doctor what kind of care you would like to have if you become unable to make medical decisions. Complete the Advanced Directive form to be prepared for such an event. Accidents or serious illnesses can happen suddenly and the best way to ensure your wishes are more likely followed is to be prepared.

If you would like more information or have questions, please contact our Mercy Pastoral Care office at (319) 398-6106.


What is an advance directive?

Advance directives are documents signed by a competent person giving direction to healthcare providers about treatment choices in certain circumstances. There are two types of advance directives. A durable power of attorney for healthcare ("durable power") allows you to name a "patient advocate" to act for you and carry out your wishes. A living will allows you to state your wishes in writing, but does not name a patient advocate.

Why have an advance directive?

An advance directive allows you to clearly state your feelings and control your health care even when you are unable to voice your opinions.

What decisions should I consider?

  • Who would you like to make treatment decisions for you?
  • How do you feel about ventilators, surgery, resuscitation (CPR), drugs or tube feeding if you were to become terminally ill? If you were unconscious and not likely to wake up? If you were senile?
  • What kind of medical treatment would you want if you had a severe stroke or other medical condition that made you dependant on others for all your care?
  • Do you want to receive every treatment your doctors or care-givers recommend?

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare?

It is a legal document that allows you to name someone at least 18 years old to be your advocate and make health care decisions for you. You can pick a family member, friend or any person you trust, but this must be willing to serve. A durable power can be used to accept or refuse any treatment. If you want your patient advocate to be able to refuse any treatment and let you die, you must say so specifically in the durable power document.  It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions.

Must I have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

No. You have this option, but no one can require you to have a durable power. You can make your wishes known by talking with your family or doctor or by writing them down, but unless you have a durable power, a patient advocate does not have legal authority to act for you.

Must I make decisions now about my future medical treatment?

No. You do not have to have a durable power or living will. As long as your are competent, you will be able to make your own health decisions. If you are no longer competent, but your family and caregivers know what you would want, it will be easier to follow your wishes. If you have not made your wishes known to family and caregivers, a court may have to name a guardian to make decisions for you.

If I write an advance directive, can I change my mind later?

Yes. You may change or cancel your advance directive at any time, as long as you are considered of sound mind to do so.  Make sure the appropriate people know of the changes.  Ideally, your changes should be in writting but you may verbalize your changes known while you are in the hospital.